MATON - MASTERSOUND
A well crafted and versatile Electric Guitar that upholds the Maton tradition of superior build quality.
The Maton MS500 Beatles Mythology
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Maton have a well earned reputation for making excellent guitars, and the Maton MS500 Mastersound is no exception, This is a well built and very versatile electric guitar that has a lot to offer in both the way it plays and sounds.About Review and Description articles, click to expand
That is essentially how I came across the MS500. I was looking for a new guitar to replace my aging and damaged Ibanez (Gibson Recorder copy). I didn't have any particular guitar in mind, but I had already decided that I wasn't going to cut corners ... I wanted a guitar that I could be happy with for many years to come.
As it happens, I find that generally Fender necks were a little too narrow and Gibson necks were a little too fat (of that era). The Maton turned out to hit the "Goldilocks spot" ... just the right neck width, radius and thickness, that makes extended playing a comfortable experience, rather than a chore.
Note that in the comments below, there are others who totally disagree with that assessment - so, player beware - in the end, it's all very personal.
The first time I played it (unamplified), I was just noodling around on it for just over half an hour or so. I remember being immediately impressed by the (off-the-shelf) action and set up of the MS500. This was a very nicely put together guitar ... and I just happened to like the blonde natural timber look of that particular guitar (confession: He's a sucker for blondes). I tried several other colour versions (sunburst etc.) and they were ALL built to the exact same high standard, so aesthetics was the only decider between them. I left the shop very impressed with the maton range in general.
Some weeks later I returned to the shop and asked if I could plug the Mastersound into a respectable amp and try it out at a 'working' volume. The shop owner politely obliged and I tried the Maton out (for another hour or so) using several smallish amps in the 50 Watt to 100 Watt range.
Without a doubt, the guitar sounded best through a Fender Princeton Chorus. I say best, because of the versatility. Other amps I tried (for example, a Mesa Boogie and a Marshall), were great for a rich Rock sounds, but failed miserably when I wanted just a nice clean uncoloured tone.
There is also an article about the virtues and failings of the Fender Princeton Chorus for those who might be interested. For now, suffice to say, it was an excellent match for the Maton MS500. You can get a lovely Rock crunch or a sublime clean stereo chorus with reverb, without using any additional guitar effects. Perfect!
The Maton MS500 was a an absolute pleasure to play. It handled lead and rhythm playing equally well. It sounded great playing blues, rock, jazz and fluffy new age. I was so impressed with the available sounds that I bought the guitar and amp together. With this combo, one can actually gig without any additional effects pedals ... if required ;-)
So lets get down to evaluating the Maton MS500 Mastersound.
This is perhaps a particularly subjective topic, in that the neck on this guitar happens to suit my hand. Apart from a slight tweak to lower the action, the guitar setup is fundamentally unchanged from when I purchased it. The Maton MS500 will cope nicely with pretty much any style of playing or musical genre. This makes the MS500 a useful and if nothing else, a very practical guitar to have on hand. All the better for not having any noticeable and/or annoying quirks.
Though the cutaway is not spectacular, you can still get to and play around the 19th fret with relative ease, but it's not a shredding axe.
Another item worth mentioning is the overall physical balance of the Mastersound guitar. In a nutshell, it hangs well. While not as light-weight as a Strat (and without those ergonomic shaved upper edges for the right arm and hip), the MS500 is certainly not a heavy or uncomfortable guitar. You should be able to gig with it and not end up with your guitar strap requiring surgical removal from your shoulder. Don't laugh, I had an Ibanez Gibson Record copy with a solid walnut body that was painful to rehearse or gig with for more than an hour. Mind you the low impedance pickups alone added at least a kilo.
The versatility of the MS500 is one of its really impressive features. Maton's choice of a Single Coil neck pickup and Dual Coil bridge pickup works very well. The apparent output levels are well matched and when used together the pickups produce a very nice crisp and slightly out of phase tone.
The overall tone tends to be a little on the dark side, leaning more toward 'full bodied' rather than 'bright'. You will probably be boosting the treble and cutting the low mids.
Using the Coil Tap option on the Bridge pickup however results in a rather thin and gutless sound. I don't really understand why they bothered with this. I personally think that a simple Phase Switch would have provided a more useful option.
Though the sound is generally very clean, there is adequate output to get some distortion happening in most amps (should you feel inclined to crank it up). Any amp or pedal that can provide a little overdrive will have you shaking the dust off the walls.
There is however no overkill in any one department, the sound is neither boomy nor brittle. Overall the expression 'well balanced but a little dark' would pretty much sum up the MS500.
Build Quality (9/10):
Everything about the MS500 (actually most Maton guitars I've ever played) suggests quality workmanship. There is a very high level of attention to detail which generally results in a stage and studio ready guitar off-the-shelf. It's impressive actually, though I have encountered exceptions (EM425C-12).
I would have scored this guitar 10/10 if it wasn't for an annoying issue with the Coil Tap on the bridge pick up. Of course, I was silly, I should have taken it back while it was still under warranty ... just never got around to it.
I don't know if the intermittent problem is with the Coil Tap switch or the actual pick up wiring. I've resoldered the switch connections, but it still fails (pick up cuts out completely) some times when switching to single coil. I just don't use the switch any more (leaving it in Humbucking mode) and it works reliably that way. Still, it is a fault and that drops the score.
Durability & Reliability (10/10):
Having owned the Maton MS500 Mastersound guitar for approximately years (purchased Sept. 1999) , I have to say that I'm generally pleased with the way this guitar has held up. Apart from the Coil Tap switch and a broken plastic machine head knob (which I did bang into a wall, and which Maton have replaced with chrome ones on later models), the guitar is very much in original condition apart from normally expected wear.
A Fretboard shave and some new frets may now be on the cards. The Bridge piece recently got a good clean and polish (June 2022) and came up much better than expected with minimal corrosion evident. Worth mentioning is that overall, there is no sign of corrosion or blemishes on any of the chromed components.
Importantly the neck has stayed true and has never required any adjustment. The Volume and Tone Control still work smoothly and without noise. The three position Pick Up Switch also still works flawlessly.
Value for Money (9/10):
This is always a tough thing to decide, given that we'd all like to have the best gear for the least expenditure. And then there are the ultra-cheap (and often frighteningly well made) Asian imports these days.
For the build quality, playability and sturdiness versus financial outlay, I'm inclined to go for a 9 out of 10.
Though I wouldn't call them exactly 'hand-made' guitars, Matons are certainly not mass produced and that also has to be a factor. Looked after, Maton guitars seem to hold their value quite well. At the same time offering an extended life of enjoyment for those who (like myself) intend to keep them. I can honestly say that the MS500, along with my Maton EM125C acoustic have both revitalised my enthusiasm to play on more than one occasion.
Every once in a while you clean it, put new strings on it and the rest of the time you just enjoy playing it ... just how it should be.
In the spirit of true transparency I should say that my new love (as of 2019) is in fact my Godin xtSA, though the Maton MS500 is still within arm's reach at all times. Also, the MS500 is still the more comfortable guitar to play (see comments below).
About my Maton Guitars - Click to expand
MATON - MASTERSOUND MS500
[ 2014 SPECIFICATIONS ]
Timber: Silver Silkwood
Neck: Bolt on (Queensland Maple)
Radius: 12 inches
Fret Markers: Pearl Dots
Fret Wire: Jim Dunlop 6130
Bridge: Chrome Tailpiece & Bridge
Machines: Chrome Grover
- MVHB (Coil Tapped)
- Magnets - Ceramic 850G
- Coils - 2 x 7.5k
- Magnet - Ceramic 750G
- Coil - 7.5k
- Master Volume
- Master Tone
- Coil Tap bridge pickup
- 3 way rotary selector switch Standard
- It appears the one I have which is the 'Natural Finish' version (what I call 'blonde'), is no longer available.
Visit Maton.com.au for more information.
- Playability - 9 / 10
- Sound - 9 / 10
- Build Quality - 9 / 10
- Durability & Reliability - 10 / 10
- Value for Money - 9 /10
- Overall Average Score ... 9 / 10
Your comments and contributions are greatly appreciated!
210605 - (Very Good) - Bought a MS500 off a mate who bought it in brand new condition and I sold it in the same brand new condition. I hardly ever played it and only ever tinkered with it until one day I took it to a rehearsal instead of playing my Telecaster, which back then, was my guitar of choice. Well, after playing it for about half an hour, my hand cramped up to the point that I could not play it any further and decided there and then to sell it.
It was a beautiful guitar and sounded pretty good, too, but unfortunately just did not fit my hand and I went back to playing the tele and the cramping instantly alleviated. I appreciated it for what it was, but just not for me and can't really comment apart from, nice well built, nice retro, yellowish against blackish, something Buddy Holly about it finish, good fret work.
Editor's Note: That totally does not come as a surprise, because I find Tele's to be uncomfortable. Which simply illustrates that neck geometry really does make a difference.
210605 - (Excellent) - I think they are handmade, I have done a factory tour and the electrics were hand crafted using machines, and even the coils were wound on site and dipped though I think they now buy them in.
Editor's Note: Thanks for that insight - When the neck and body are shaped using CNC (computer controlled) routing, I tend to think of that as a production line process, rather than a hand-made approach. There are still luthiers that individually hand-shape necks - that is hand-made. So perhaps we can say that Maton guitars are still partially hand-made
200910 - (Excellent) - I have the exact same natural finished Maton guitar, and after not playing it for years am learning to love it again. I'd like to add that I find the coil tapped weaker output on the bridge pickup useful for rhythm tones when playing alongside a warmer sounding lead - kind of like a lot of the 60s bands using guitars with low output pickups. I think it has it's place.
Editor's Note: And here I was thinking the blondes were scarce. The coil tap is the only thing on my guitar that has always been 'iffy' - PU cuts out sometimes when switched to single coil. It is not the switch (that was replaced with no effect), so - one day a bit of PU rewiring will have to happen ;-)
170103 - (Excellent) - I have a blonde one too, my favorite, I'm very happy with it, it kicks ass. I have 3 Matons, all my guitars are Australian made, love them.
Editor's Note: Thanks for writing and all the best for the new year ;-)
160722 - (Excellent) - I'm going to buy one!
Editor's Note: Love to hear what you think of it after you've had it a while ;-)
141024 - (Excellent) - This is why I love the internet. I also own an AD25 and now I know more about it and why I like the tone. Thanks.
Editor's Note: You're welcome ;-)
Incept Date: Wizard - 140108
Last Update: Wizard - 220715